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Jul 13

Reflecting on the Recent Controversy

by Harrison • July 13, 2010

The Spokeo Perspective

Upon the release of Spokeo 4 in early March of this year, a surprising controversy sprang up among the blog communities and media. Our new product unexpectedly seemed to strike a nerve in some, eliciting powerful and sometimes harsh responses. Suddenly we were the focus of overwhelming attention. There was much misplaced trepidation, and startling things were being said about us.  We were flooded with demands for interviews — assailed with piercing questions, followed by a seemingly endless stream of often one-sided commentaries and hard-lined news stories, many of which were less reliable than we could have imagined.  

Throughout this maelstrom, however, we somehow managed to resist the temptation to dive into the fray. While the impulse to defend ourselves and shed light on the many half-truths was compelling, we did not wish to engage in any caustic back-and-forths, or verbal skirmishes. It is simply not what we are about. Instead we decided to concentrate our energies on what we are about – namely creativity and development.  

Spokeo’s chief aim was, and remains, to create great products. Simply put, our heart is in innovation. We are committed to cutting-edge design and ingenuity, and recognize that developing great products entails healthy and sometimes vigorous debate. We pay close attention to any feedback we receive, good or bad, because we know that doing so stimulates great ideas. And indeed, in many ways our willingness to integrate and respond to criticism is what has shaped and molded our products into what they are today.  Now that some of the recent controversy has quieted down, however, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect upon everything that has transpired in recent months, and present another side of the story as well.  

I think most hi-tech innovators would agree that every new technology suffers labor pains. New products undergo many metamorphoses and lifecycles, and frequently endure multiple phases of adjustment and fine-tuning before they assume their true form.  Spokeo is no different. Ours is a new data-aggregation technology. It has revolutionized the realm of people-search and made it what it is today. In 2006, we invented the concept of social-network aggregation.  In 2008, we popularized social-search technology, and today people search stands at a whole new level. But this kind of innovation does not come without a few challenges along the way.  

Spokeo has always strived to push and test the limits of technology, as is evident in our track record of innovation. Perhaps more important, however, we have also discovered that, sometimes when we test the limits of technology, we also test people and their threshold for change.

We are forever examining, reassessing, and fine tuning our products. While we in no way revel in controversy, we have come to accept it as an inevitable part of the innovation process.  Like any new-product innovator at the cutting edge, we make mistakes, and will inevitably continue to do so.  It is simply par for the course. We will also, on occasion, probably unintentionally upset some, while hopefully pleasing a great many more. No matter how controversial we may be, however, what we do promise is to continue to listen to all factions — fans and critics alike.

Harrison Tang, President

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